California: Microstamping Challenged, Extra Waiting Period Back In


A firing pin demonstrating different microstamping concepts. (Photo: David Howitt, Frederic Tulleners and Michael Beddow/University of California, Davis)

There is both good and bad news in store for gun owners in the Golden State with two federal appeals court rulings recently handed down. The good news is that the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno sent back a ruling to the lower court mandating microstamping. The bad news is that 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling, upholding the waiting period for existing gun owners.

Microstamping is a proposed technology to aid police in linking spent cases to individual guns. Guns equipped with microstamps should leave a unique mark on the case or primer on any ammunition they fire. Police can use the stamps to look up the gun by make, model and serial number.

California legislators passed a law requiring all semi-automatic firearms sold in the state to have microstamps as of 2010. Without any established microstamping technology or facilities the law was put on hold until 2013. In 2013 California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced that the technology was viable. From then on all future semi-automatic handguns sold in California must comply with the microstamping requirements.

In 2014 the Calguns and the Second Amendment Foundation challenged the microstamping law. They lost the case in January 2015 when U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller ruled that gun owners’ rights were not being compromised because the microstamping requirement isn’t a ban.


In testing with regular use, microstamping degrades from “moderate to good” to “extreme.” (Photo: David Howitt, Frederic Tulleners and Michael Beddow/University of California, Davis)

But there are many proven problems with microstamping (.pdf). The stamps wear off over time, they often don’t leave clear marking and they can quickly clog with fouling and debris.

The most commonly-suggested type of microstamp is on the tip of the gun’s firing pin. These are consumable, user-replaceable parts. Not only do they wear, they can be defaced without affecting the function of the gun, or replaced with standard firing pins. And the primer also expands when it ignites, which can produce multiple imprints on top of each other as it re-strikes the firing pin.

Because of these problems and others no company has bothered to establish any microstamping facilities. To put it simply the foundation for this technology doesn’t exist. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute (SAAMI) appealed the decision successfully.

“It would be illogical to uphold a requirement that is currently impossible to accomplish,” wrote Justice Herbert Levy for the 5th District Court of Appeals. The appeals court sent back the lower court’s ruling.

While this may not result in the abolition of California’s safe handgun laws, it may result in the repeal of the microstamping requirement as it stands today. That alone would be a big win for gun rights in California.

Where things took a turn for the worse is with the state’s 10-day waiting period. In August 2014 District Judge Anthony Ishii ruled that part of California’s waiting period was unconstitutional. He ruled that gun owners that have already passed background checks and underwent the waiting period should not have to go through additional waiting periods afterward.

See Also: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Signs Bill to Nix 48-hour Waiting Period

Prohibited persons are actively tracked in California so the 10-day waiting period is a “cooling off” window to theoretically prevent lawful purchasers from committing crimes with their new guns.

Ishii also said that the state’s background check system was unnecessary and that California should instead use the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) system. The appellate court disagreed, finding no legal issues with the extra waiting periods.

“This case provides a useful illustration of the incremental ‘creep’ that occurs once a gun-control law gets passed,” said the NRA-ILA. “California’s first waiting period was a law that imposed an overnight wait period for handgun purchases only, and codified in 1953 as part of the California Penal Code. Two years later, the handgun waiting period was expanded from one day to three days.”

“In 1965, the wait period was again extended, from three days to five, and was extended yet again, ten years later, to 15 days (but reduced to ten days in 1996 because faster processing of background checks was available). In 1991, the wait period was expanded to apply to all gun sales, not just handgun purchases.”

In 2016 California also passed new legislation requiring background checks for all ammunition purchases, among other unnecessary and burdensome gun laws.

About the author: Max Slowik is a writer with over a dozen years of experience and is a lifelong shooter. He has unwavering support for the Second Amendment and the human right to self-defense. His ambition is to follow Thomas Paine, as a journalist by profession and a propagandist by inclination.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • maddog June 30, 2017, 12:18 pm

    i live in ca, i was here before all the restrictions. i remember street sweepers for sale in the sporting goods section of the newspaper. then the morons took over to make things better. not only did they restrict the gun crowd, but they let people grow 25 pot plants for medical purposes. these people sell the pot, which is illegal, and have beautiful homes and new cars. they do not pay taxes. but in ca this is acceptable. but now, if you have a black rifle that has not been neutered, you are a criminal and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. changing these people would be like teaching a retard to become a brain surgeon. they don’t have the common sense to realize that they are creating black markets for ammo and restricted guns that cannot be had in ca. at least if they sold them they would have records of the sales, being brought in illegally from other states they have no idea what’s going on (not that they have a clue anyway). so have another toke ca doj and enjoy your ridiculous self serving decisions. make criminals of thousands, if not millions of people that will not abide by your unfair laws asking us to mutilate our firearms that we have purchased and paid taxes on. i live here only because i have family and i’m also too old to move all my stuff. so for all the ignorant people a (like bigc) that have all the answers, i won’t tuck tail and run out on family as you would. some of us have the balls to deal with the problem rather than run scared from the bully.

  • Joe Gray December 30, 2016, 9:59 pm

    There are quite a few counties out of the big city crazies that are almost as normal as they can be. El Dorado county. the sheriff is a big NRA supporter. He even wrote a letter to Obama condemning him for his overreach of the second amendment a few years ago. You can also get
    a ccwp in this county. It is also Republican majority although it’s one of the few in counties that are in California. It’s mainly the big cities that control the laws in California and they are all educated idiots from all the liberal California school system. Just hope the NRA and Trump can change all the unconstitutional laws we have here.

  • BigC December 30, 2016, 10:58 am

    F–K the Peoples Replublik of Mexifornia………they deserve ALL the misery they’re going to get, for continuing to pander to ILLEGAL ALIENS and voting for left-wing trash! Wallow in your misery you filthy IDIOTS!!!!!!

    • jim jackson December 30, 2016, 11:14 am

      I couldn’t have expressed my sentiments any better! Leaving this hellhole (LA) ASAP.

    • Steve December 30, 2016, 11:39 am

      If you have nothing constructive to say, please keep your hateful, lump everyone together, mouth shut. You attack those of us that choose to stay and fight the battle against the corrupt California government that is overwhelmingly progressive. I choose to stay and fight, using common sense, what financial resources I can spare, and my voice to combat these draconian and overly restrictive rules and regulations. Please do not place every Californian in one basket, we do have a strong voice, but we fight a lying and corrupt government that will lie, cheat, and steal to get their way.

      • Fulton December 30, 2016, 12:47 pm

        Thanks, that needed to be said. I’m one of a huge group of gun owners living on the Left Coast (California) that won’t give in and won’t cut and run. I believe our best hope in the future is that President Trump appoints many pro Second Amendment federal judges and justices to the Supreme Court. Then we can appeal and overturn most of these unconstitutional laws.

      • Joe McHugh December 30, 2016, 7:44 pm

        Steve, not so fast! Every dark cloud has a silver lining.
        Consider this option. Gun club members in California and across the United States could scour for the discarded empty cartridge cases that are usually tossed into the club provided “empties” containers, for micro stamped cartridge cases. Then they could advertise on the Ebay site or Craig’s list offers to sell 9 mm, .40 caliber, and .45 caliber empty cases for $20.00 each. Since they are selling to the general public, they have no control on who buys these micro stamped empty cases.

        Now for the fun part. The criminal in California can buy a bunch of these micro stamped cases for the purpose of dropping them at crime scenes. Of course they will have to pick up the cases that their handgun fired, but if they have enough time, it will make the police chase a completely innocent person for their misdeed. In WWI the aviators first started shooting at the enemy planes with .45 Caliber handguns with wire catch devices attached to the pistol. Easy to fabricate and easy to use.

        Oops! I might just have given the criminal element another way to get away with murder. Forget about what I just wrote.

    • John Klumpp December 30, 2016, 3:59 pm

      California continues to prove the old joke about California being a giant bowl of granola, what ever is not fruits or nuts are flakes. The state that thinks outlawing things that law-abiding people can do forget the cold hard fact that the evil doers and lawbreakers will continue to disregard the law as things are now will continue to disregard any new law blocking them from doing whatever evil they chose to do.

    • davud December 31, 2016, 2:15 am

      you do understand that the only californians reading this are the ones who support gun rights, right? so why are you going out of your way to insult fellow gun owners?

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude December 30, 2016, 9:05 am

    Just more proof that the Totalitarians will NEVER stop chipping away at the Constitution until We, The People force our legislators and government employees to Repeal, Nullify, and ban ALL past, current, and future gun laws. Making it a guaranteed punishable crime to even attempt another gun law. Because ALL gun laws at Illegal and designed ONLY for one purpose. The eventual Confiscation of all private firearms and the absolute social control and Enslavement of a Free American People.

  • Mahatma Muhjesbude December 30, 2016, 9:05 am

    Just more proof that the Totalitarians will NEVER stop chipping away at the Constitution until We, The People force our legislators and government employees to Repeal, Nullify, and ban ALL past, current, and future gun laws. Making it a guaranteed punishable crime to even attempt another gun law. Because ALL gun laws at Illegal and designed ONLY for one purpose. The eventual Confiscation of all private firearms and the absolute social control and Enslavement of a Free American People.

  • BOhio December 30, 2016, 4:38 am

    California is doomed. The outrageous and idiotic, i.e. liberal, infringement of the 2nd Amendment and persecution/profiling of shooters and the shooting sports was a big factor in our decision to flee the not-so-golden state before they put a fence up — to keep taxpayers IN. As a native Californian, and living there my entire life up until 1.5 years ago (when we fled for NH), it was sickening to witness the lunacy imposed by the fascist politicians in their ceaseless quest for power, control, and relevance. Sounds like revolvers will now be the go-to gun for criminals, presuming they can still hold them sideways maybe?

    Good people of California, i.e. non-liberals, you need to get out while you can. There’s more to life than good weather. The state income tax in Kalifornia can be up to 13.3%. Sales tax in the SF Bay Area is now 10% in some cities. (FYI, in NH, the state income tax is ZERO. And there is no sales tax except on food/drinks consumed in a restaurant…) Kalifornia will NEVER implement the NICS. Imagine my reaction when I first walked into a NH gun store as a new resident here. “I’d like to see that S&W M&P Pro CORE 9L please. How many 17-round magazines does it come with? And it costs $699? Fine, I’ll take it.”

    15 minutes later, I’m walking out of that store, with pistol and magazines in my possession, having paid $699. Total. And because we bought a 50-acre farm (for the cost of a tract house in Tracy, CA), I can shoot on my own property, yet town is merely 3.5 miles away. (By the way, you aren’t required to have car insurance in NH, nor are adults required to wear seat belts, nor helmets if driving a motorcycle. It’s called freedom, and a strong reliance on personal responsibility. Imagine that.)

    To my fellow shooters with whom I used to compete at (now-closed, thanks liberals!!) the Chabot Gun Club, I’m sorry about your plight. But you can, and should, get out. The only state-approved bullet ultimately in your future is the Bullet Train that the liberals are jamming down the throats of the taxpayers. Think about that as you’re driving across the new (and defective) Bay Bridge, which took 24 years and triple the original budget to build, all while the ‘old’ Bay Bridge was repaired and working just fine. Insanity.

    • Steve December 30, 2016, 12:00 pm

      Thanks for bailing on the rest of us, I do hope that you will be happy and that your life is a productive one. I cannot leave California as yet due to many reasons including my wife’s health. I also am just stupid enough to believe that we can still win the fight on both a state and federal battleground, Even though you left CA, please keep fighting for our 2A rights as a nation. We can win in CA by simply making our federal government ratify the second amendment as applying to all the states and territories as one equal law and right for all. This has not been done but has been with the other 9 rights in the bill of rights. The other step that needs to be done in every state, if your state constitution does not have an amendment giving the right to keep and bear arms, get one added by the vote of the people. California does not have a gun rights amendment, One was tried several years ago but people would not sign the petition, they believed that the 2A in our federal constitution covered them, it does not.

      I read FB posts, almost daily, basing immigrants, for coming to the U.S. instead of staying in their homeland and fighting for change, California is my home and I will stay and fight the good fight as long as I am physically able, my chosen state has many flawed rules and laws, we can fight against them one at a time, slowly chipping back the totalitarian wall that is our current state government.

  • Mark N. December 20, 2016, 8:09 pm

    Not only is the firing pin microstamping unreliable and subject to wear, or complete replacement with mail order partsd, but the law as written requires that the stamp appear in two locations on the casing. The State argued that this could mean that the stamp could appear in tow places on the primer, but the Court of Appeal declined to accept that argument. And the fact is that the only existing technology, the(experimental) technology upon which Attorney General Kamala Harris’ certification (that microstamping was “generally available”) was based, does not and cannot stamp the casing in two different places. If all that happens is that the microstamping rule is booted, there will be potentially more than a thousand semi-auto pistols that will become available on the California market. Sadly, this will not be soon, as presumably the State will appeal to avoid the eventual judgment from going into effect, adding a few more years to the process that is already almost three years and counting. By which time the Legislature, completely controlled by the Democratic Party, will have had plenty of time to pass an amendment to the law allowing for a single stamp to suffice.

  • SuperG December 19, 2016, 11:15 am

    I liked the ignorance of U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller, as based on that logic, California could require that all guns sold must be able to park you car for you when it’s raining, which isn’t a ban on guns at all. It makes me wonder if she’s growing senile early, or if she ever listens to what she babbles.

    • Mark N. December 20, 2016, 8:15 pm

      I haven’t seen her final ruling, but I presume she simply ruled that since there are still hundreds of handguns available to Californians, there was no “unreasonable” interference with the Second Amendment right. It is similar to courts that have held that a governmental entity can ban particular weapons (ARs and AKs, for example, as in the Highland Park case decided by the Seventh Circuit) without violating the Second. Therefore it is irrelevant that there isn’t a semiauto handgun (revolvers are not included in the law) manufactured today that complies with the microstamping mandate.

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